Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to a rather broad set of symptoms including several or all of the following; bloating, weight gain, headache, back aches, irritability, depression, breast swelling or tenderness, loss of libido and fatigue; and that they occur consistently a week or ten days before menses and routinely relent with or shortly after menses. Symptoms are variable in intensity but often impact adversely on quality of life, work capability and interpersonal relationships. Patients often report a “tidal wave” of symptoms at their onset and dread the approach of each premenstrual time of the month. Because of the consistent premenstrual timing, a correlation with hormonal balance/imbalance is strongly suspected.
Let’s take a closer look at progesterone. It’s as intrinsic to femininity and reproduction as estrogen. It’s as integral to the menstrual cycle and gestation, yet inexplicably; it is always overshadowed by estrogen.
Progesterone is produced in the adrenals, in the ovaries during childbearing years, and in the placenta during pregnancy. It prepares the uterus for implantation of a fertilized egg and helps develop the placenta and mammary glands during pregnancy. In addition to these life-giving functions, progesterone also serves many other important purposes.
Throughout the menstrual cycle the levels of estrogen and progesterone change. Estrogen is the dominant hormone during the first week of menses. With ovulation, progesterone levels rise to assume dominance during the two weeks preceding menstruation. This spike in progesterone in the second half of the cycle is known to affect PMS. Progesterone blocks many of estrogen’s potential side effects. A surplus of estrogen or a deficiency of progesterone during these two weeks allows an abnormal month-long exposure to estrogen dominance, setting the stage for the symptoms of estrogen side effects and PMS. However, simple correction of the progesterone deficiency either orally or topically with natural progesterone can safely alleviate the symptoms of PMS.
To quell the symptoms of PMS, some doctors prescribe birth control pills, diuretics, and psychotropic medications. However, nothing comes close to touching the effectiveness of supplemental progesterone for relieving PMS symptoms.